Two of Britain’s greatest actors stage Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy
A behind-the-scenes look at Shakespearean theatre
In 1988, rising star Kenneth Branagh tackled the role of Shakespeare’s prince of Denmark for the first time in his professional career under the guidance of celebrated actor Derek Jacobi, considered "the best Hamlet of his generation" (The New York Times). Narrated by Patrick Stewart, this hour-long film documents how these two intelligent, passionate men found new depths in Shakespeare’s classic drama.
Filmmakers Mark Olshaker and Larry Klein follow the company through four weeks of rehearsals, from the first read-throughs to opening night. Interviews with principal actors--as well as the set designer, costume supervisor, text advisor, and others--reveal how each member of the company meets the production’s challenges. In all, Discovering Hamlet offers an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at the process of staging Shakespeare’s most demanding tragedy.
An Emmy®-winning star of stage and screen, Derek Jacobi (I, Claudius) has played some of the Bard’s most challenging parts in his 50-year career, including Hamlet, Prospero, Macbeth, and Lear.
Four-time Oscar® nominee Kenneth Branagh is a versatile actor, director, and writer famed for bringing Shakespeare to the silver screen in Hamlet, Henry V, and other films.
The combined talents of British theater powerhouses Derek Jacobi and Kenneth Branagh give Discovering Hamlet
plenty of star wattage. This DVD is partly a documentary of Jacobi's production of Shakespeare's classic tragedy Hamlet
, starring Branagh, partly an examination of the play itself (perhaps the most famous and, some argue, greatest play in the English language), and partly a conversation about how theater comes to be--the choices an actor and director make to illuminate the inner life of a play. The intention is to avoid literary analysis, instead grappling with Hamlet
as the production struggles to find its feet on the stage. Unfortunately, Branagh's Hamlet isn't all that good--he himself later called his performance "high on energy but low on subtlety"--and Jacobi, while a great actor, isn't the most articulate director (he comments, in an interview on the DVD, that he hasn't directed since). It's to the documentary's credit that it includes interviews with many other members of the cast, creating a multifaceted perspective on rehearsal. The DVD includes an entire second disc of interviews and rehearsal footage, including the full engaging interview with Sophie Thompson, who played Ophelia, and even footage from the cast party, where everyone gets drunk and sloppy. All in all, an intriguing glimpse into British theater life. --Bret Fetzer